A U.S. Army officer pursues two Virginia police officers after a traffic stop in December in which officers drew and pointed their guns, sprayed him with pepper, and used a slang term to suggest that he would risk being executed for deliberately holding both hands in the air in an attempt to defuse the situation.
Police in Windsor, southeastern Virginia, have yet to comment on the incident involving Second Lieutenant Caron Nazario, a black and Latino man who was wearing the uniform when officers ordered him to stepping out of his Chevrolet Tahoe as he raised his hands across the driver. side window outside a local gas station.
The lawsuit, filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Norfolk and obtained by the Washington Post, alleges that the officers violated Nazario’s constitutional rights during the arrest and that the officers further threatened to destroy the lieutenant’s military career “with a series of unsubstantiated criminal charges.” if he denounced them for misconduct.
Video of the Dec. 5 incident was captured by the two officers’ body cameras and on Nazario’s cell phone, according to the costume.
“What is happening?” Nazario asked the officers, who yelled at him to get out of the SUV as he approached, the guns.
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“What’s going on is you’re turning up the lights, son,” one replied, using a slang term for the electric chair in a line from the movie, “The Green Mile. “
“I’m really scared to go out,” Nazario told officers.
“Yeah, you should be!” a retorted.
Jonathan Arthur, Nazario’s attorney, told The Associated Press that the Virginia State University graduate was on his way home from his duty station when the incident occurred.
“He’s certainly not doing very well,” he said, when asked about Nazario’s condition.
In his report, included in the court file, Windsor police officer Daniel Crocker reported encountering a vehicle with tinted windows and no rear license plate, describing it in radio transmissions as “escaping the police” and qualifying it as a “high-risk road check”. . “
According to the costume, Nazario explained at the time that he slowed down was not trying to escape the officer, but instead was looking for a lighted location “for the safety of the officers and out of respect for the officers.”
His newly purchased Tahoe was so new that it had temporary cardboard labels displayed on both the rear and passenger windows, depending on the combination.
A second officer, Joe Gutierrez, was nearby when Crocker’s call went out and chose to join the stop. Arthur said Gutierrez told him that Nazario’s choice to continue in a well-lit area is not uncommon, “and 80% of the time it’s a minority,” he quoted as saying. officer.
Thinking that Nazario’s backplate was becoming visible under the gas station’s glare, the suit says that Crocker and Gutierrez immediately left their squad cars and pulled out their weapons, attempting to extract Nazario from his SUV as ‘he held his hands in the air and repeatedly asked her what he had done. wrong.
Footage shows Gutierrez spraying pepper spray on Nazario several times as officers continue to order him to remove his seat belt and get out of his vehicle.
Eyes closed in pain as he resisted the urge to wipe them off, Nazario told the officers, “I don’t even want to grab my seat belt – can you please…. My hands are up, can you please – look, this is really messed up, “
After Nazario finally got out of the car, he was shot dead with “knee hits” as he continued to ask for a police supervisor, the trial said, and then repeatedly beaten and handcuffed.
Officers searched the SUV, where they found a handgun, but replaced it after determining it was legally owned.
The lawsuit said that after questioning Nazario, officers threatened to derail his military career “knowing the criminal charges would harm him” and told him they would refrain from laying charges if he ” relaxed and let it go. ”
According to the lawsuit, officers changed or omitted details of the shutdown in their subsequent reports.
“These cameras captured images of behavior consistent with a repugnant nationwide trend of law enforcement officers, who, believing they can operate with impunity, engage in unprofessional, discourteous abuse of authority, racist, dangerous and sometimes fatal, ”says the trial.
The two officers still work for the department, the City of Windsor director told the Virginian-Pilot. USA TODAY attempted to contact Windsor Police, who did not respond to a call. A voicemail message reported that the mailbox was full.
Contribute: The Associated Press